Sunday, March 11, 2018

Kashmiri Eggplant And Apples, A Simple Dish For A Cold Spring Day.

   Living in Sonoma, Indian markets are few and far between. As as result I grow a lot of my own produce, and spices, but that's only good for a certain part of the year. In the winter we turn over the soil and let things go fallow before we fertilize and renew for the spring. That's when I have to go hunting for the things I need for cooking.  One of my favorite shopping spots is a Cambodian market in Santa Rosa, Phenom Phen. Since a great many of my favorite dishes are  from South Indian cuisine I find a lot of the vegetables and items that I need are available there. The only catch is, this market is about a 50 mile round trip for me, so I'm not there that often. When I do go, I take advantage of everything I can get. Their selection is amazing, and as Maude Lebowski would say, very very thorough.

The other day I made my run to Santa Rosa, and they had just gotten in a whole load of fresh produce including my favorite Indian eggplants. I bought a bunch and brought them home.

   One dish I hadn't made in a long time is a very very simple, mild Kashmiri dish from the north called Tsoont Vaangan aka Eggplants with Apples.This is a recipe from Mrs. Manohar Nath Kaul. I love this dish on working weekdays when I'm always looking for simple, easy, and quick recipes for lunch. With only a few ingredients, this is nearly as simple as it gets.
   The only ingredient that you may not have readily available is Hing also known as Asafoetida powder, however I've found it in some non-Indian markets in the spice section. This is a very powerful, truffle-like spice, made from a Rhizome and is often used in Indian dishes (sometimes for religious purposes) as a substitute for onions or garlic. It smells strong before cooking but when cooked has a garlicky or truffle like flavor. It's great in potato dishes. One only needs a tiny bit of hing so one small jar goes a loooong way.

Eggplants and Apples


Here's What You Need:

1 and 1/4 pound eggplant (I used the small Indian eggplant, but any eggplant will do as long as it's cut to proper size)
2  Granny Smith apples
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne
6 Tbs vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)
1/8 tsp hing

Here's What To do:

Cut the eggplants into 3/4 inch thick slices on the diagonal. If you've got a big eggplant, halve and quarter it so the pieces are the correct size for cooking.

Cut the apples into wedges, don't peel them.

Grind your fennel seeds in a mortar or spice grinder.

Take the ground fennel seeds and mix them with the turmeric, salt, and chili powder. Stir in 1 Tbs of water and mix to a paste.

Set the paste aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai, when it's hot toss in the hing powder and then the apple wedges.

Brown the apples lightly on all sides, then remove them with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Put the eggplant slices into the same oil and brown them on both sides.

You may have to do this in batches. As the slices brown, take them out with a slotted spoon and put them with the apples.
When everything has been browned, put the apples and eggplants back into the pan together.

Pour the spice paste into the pan with them and stir gently.

Turn the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn the apple and eggplant pieces over gently to coat them and make sure you don't break them.

Lift them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and serve them up.

   This is a very clean and simple dish with a delicate flavor, just right for  a day when you don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. It's also vegan, and gluten free. Coming up next more Indian seasonal specials. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Smookie, The Dark Chocolate, Gluten Free, Vegan S'More

   When I was working on designing gluten-free and vegan recipes for CocoaPlanet here in Sonoma, one of the things I kept hearing about was the idea of a S'more. Not just any S'more mind you, but a gluten free and if possible vegan S'more. I've only made marshmallow about twice in my life and since I'm not a fan of the corn syrup, anything that involved it was pretty low on my list. As I said, I'd only done this once before. Then I discovered AquaFaba aka BeanWater
   I didn't discover AquaFaba. That was the labor of many vegans over many years who longed for an egg white substitute in cooking and baking and were constantly experimenting, searching for the holy grail of vegan egg whites. Well, after several years, they succeeded and the word went out. The new weapon in the vegan baking arsenal was AquaFaba.
   I've known Sanjana  for a number of years through the Indian Food Community. Her site is K.O.Rasoi and she and her creations are amazing. When she first told me about bean water, my initial reaction was thanks but no thanks. The idea of turning the water I've cooked my garbanzos in into desserts was a no go. So I ignored the idea for about a year and then one day my curiosity got the better of me and I started experimenting. After all, there are so many uses for ceces, chickpeas, garbanzos, chole, whatever one calls them, why not do something with the water also. Boy, was I surprised! I started turning out all sorts of vegan and gluten free treats such as these Macarons.

   But meanwhile back to Smookies. Working with bean water can be tricky when you're learning, but the learning curve is pretty easy, and these smookies are among the easiest. One of the easiest ways to get started is using a can of Garbanzo beans with no salt added. So grab your beans and let's get Smookieing.

Here's What You Need:

(note:  vegan shortening can  be substitiuted for butter)

The liquid from 1 can of no salt added garbanzo beans
2 tsp xanathan gum
1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup of caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
The Ganache:

8 oz of CocoaPlanet Vanilla Espresso chocolate or any good chocolate broken into pieces
1/2 cup of cream or coconut milk
1 Tbs unsalted or vegan margarine at room temperature

 Here's What To Do:

Bake the chocolate shortbread cookies.
Take them out of the oven.
Let them cool for about 5 minutes then move them to a cooling rack.

Immediately turn the oven down to 200 degrees.
Place the garbanzo liquid in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip at medium speed for about 4 minutes.

Turn the speed up to high and add in the sugar, salt and xanathan gum one at a time.

 Beat at high speed for about 10 minutes.

The Marshmallow fluff will get stiff and glossy.

When it's done it looks like this.

Put the marshmallow fluff into a pastry bag.

Pipe the fluff onto the top of each cookie.

Place the cookies back on the baking sheet.

Pop them into a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. This allows the marshmallow to bind to the cookie.

After 30 minutes remove them and let them cool.
Meanwhile prepare your ganache for dipping.
When the ganache has cooled, dip the cooled marshmallow tops into the cooled ganache.

Let the ganache set.

Place the smookies into an air tight container in the fridge to keep the chocolate coating crisp and the cookies fresh, then serve them up!

There they are, gluten free, and vegan. You'll never go back to Mallowmars again. Coming up next, back to Indian food, a kashmiri recipe for eggplant and apples that's a perfect side for a Meatless Monday feast follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Tasty and Easy Company Dessert For Holiday Recovery. Panna Cotta.

   This weekend I cooked the first real meal since I got sick on New Years day. Alans' cousin Joan came up from Berkeley for a visit and I prepared an easy old school Italian dinner. Lobster and saffron risotto, a blood orange salad with Sicilian olives, and for dessert, Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Raspberry Coulis, and some Pistachio Sea Salt Brittle.

   It has been a while since I've made Panna Cotta and so looking through my recipes, I decided to go with something from a friend. I've known Judy Witts Francini aka Divina Cucina for a few years and have always enjoyed cooking her recipes. She's a wonderful chef who happens to live in the same town as some of my Italian relatives, and a number of dishes I've gotten from her are now in my regular at home meal rotation. The Panna Cotta has just joined the list.
   I didn't get a chance to photograph the making of this dessert and I just have a leftover to show you as this stuff disappears fast once it's on the table. It's very simple to make so the instructions are as follows, I'm linking my pistachio brittle recipe here, and the raspberry coulis at the end, so here goes.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Here's What You Need:
4 cups of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp powdered unflavored gelatin
6 Tbs ice cold water

Here's What To Do:

Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a small pot. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir well until the gelatin is completely dissolved and blended into the cream

Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into lightly oiled (with a flavorless neutral tasting oil) custard cups, or you might do as I did and pour them directly into a wine or dessert glass or cup avoiding unmolding. 

Chill them until firm, which will take at least two to four hours. 

When they are firm, unmold them or serve them straight up in the glass you've poured them into .

Raspberry Coulis

Here's What You Need:
One  6 oz carton of fresh raspberries
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 and 1/2 Tbs water

Here's What To Do: 

Place the water and sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Stir it from time to time, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes or so.

Put the raspberries and the sugar syrup in a blender and puree, or do as I did and use an immersion blender. Mix them together right int the pot.

Strain the raspberry puree  through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. You are good to go.

Drizzle some of the raspberry coulis over the  Panna Cotta, sprinkle a bit of finely chopped pistachio nut over it and then break off a piece of pistachio brittle and add it as a finishing touch.

   Easy and delicious, the perfect dessert for getting back to cooking again. Coming up next, more dishes for the season, follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where I've Been....Where Everybody Else Has, Sick

Just a quick post to let everyone know that we've been sick around here since before Christmas. We've had colds, no flu thank god! Alan got a cold 2 weeks before Christmas I took care of him and then he was back in action at New Years. The day after New Years, I got whatever he had and am finally crawling out of my hole. Needless to say there has been next to no cooking going on around here for the duration.
    Now that I'm up and around, I'm ready to fire up the stove so I'll be back shortly with some healthy new Years dishes, meanwhile the last time I was in the kitchen a couple of days before Christmas, I made a Buche de Noel. Gluten free (it's made of chestnut flour) with chestnut meringues, sugared cranberries and marron glace. If one is going to stop cooking for about a month at least I went out on a high note.
Coming up next, quick and healthy to get the new year started right. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, December 17, 2017

An Italian Chestnut Christmas Cake

   I've been doing a lot of holiday baking, both for the folks at CocoaPlanet and also just for home. I've been doing all sorts of seasonal  things from a Buche de Noel, to an Apple Beehive. A lot of the things I've been doing are French, but every now and then I like to dip into some recipes from the part of Italy (the North)  that my family hails from and try something traditional. Thus, the Chestnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache  decorated with Marron Glace aka, glazed Chestnuts. This cake is gluten free because it's made with chestnut flour. This cake can also be made without using dairy. It does however contain eggs. One thing I do love about this cake is that it is stupid easy to make. It is literally toss everything in a stand mixer and churn. No separating of eggs, no folding, no sifting, it doesn't get more low tech than that.
   I hadn't had this cake in ages and I had to go hunting around for a recipe that looked familiar, and I found it at Azelia's Kitchen. Azelia is originally from Portugal, now lives in England, and she has a recipe for a Chestnut Cake that takes me back to Italian family dinners from my childhood. So grab yourself some Chestnut flour (living out in the country I had to get mine mail-order) and a jar of chestnuts and try this delicious cake over the holiday season. I promise you won't regret it.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake


Here's What You Need:

The Cake:

1 cup minus 1 Tbs chestnut flour
3/4 cup minus 1 Tbs caster sugar (you can also use brown sugar if you prefer)
7 Tbs salted butter, or 1/2 cup of non dairy margarine at room temp.
3 eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbs any sort of milk, dairy or non dairy

The Ganache:

8 oz of CocoaPlanet Vanilla Espresso chocolate broken into pieces
1/2 cup of cream
1 Tbs unsalted butter at room temperature

The Glazed Chestnuts:

8 oz of shelled cooked unsweetened chestnuts. I got a jar at my local Whole Foods.
2 cups of caster sugar
4 cups of water

Here's What To Do:

The Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9 x 2 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
Whisk all the dry ingredients together and put them into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add in the butter, eggs, and milk.
Beat on medium low with the whisk attachment until every thing is well blended.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin.
Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Tap it against the side of the counter to get rid of air bubbles in the  batter and pop it into the oven.
Bake for about 18- 20 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center of the cake. When it comes out clean, it's done.
Set it aside to cool. While the cake is cooling in the pan make your ganache.

The Ganache:

Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a medium bowl.
Heat the cream until it is just starting to bubble at the edges.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl, making sure the chooclate pieces are all covered. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
Whisk the now melted chocolate and the cream together and add in the unsalted butter.
Let the thick ganache mixture cool slightly before you use it.

Unmold The Cake:

Run a thin knife around the edges of the cooled cake in the pan loosening it.
Take a serving platter and place it on top of the cake.
Turn everything upside down so the plate is on the bottom. Remove the cake pan. RThe cake is sitting on the platter with a top covered with parchment paper.
Peel back the parchment paper and toss it.

Icing the Cake:

Pour the slightly cooled ganache over the top of the cake and using a frosting blade smooth everything out. The cake will be coated in shiny chocolate ganache. Let it dry at room temperature while you cany the chestnuts.

Marron Glace:

In a pot over medium high heat melt the sugar and water together.
Simmer the sugar syrup until it thickens slightly. You stiill want it to be easily pourable.
When the syrup is ready, put your cooked chestnuts  into a wide stainless steel skillet and pour the hot sugar syrup over them.
Turn the heat to low and simmer the chestnuts in the syrup  for about 30 minutes.
Turn the heat off at that point and let the chestnuts sit in the syrup for another 10 minutes.
After that, take them out of the syrup and set them on a plate to cool.
Decorate the cooled ganache covered cake with the cooled candied chestnuts.

   This was a birthday cake for one of the owners of CocoaPlanet. The cake is very moist and tender due to the high fat content of the chestnut flour, and absolutely a treat for any birthday. My husband has requested this as his birthday cake this year, so I'll be baking another one in a couple of weeks. Coming up next a few more Holiday treats. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Sheet Pan With A Plan: OXO Makes Your Holiday Meals Magic.

   I love OXO products, and when looking for great design, ergonomic ease, and long lasting quality, that's the brand I reach for. So, when OXO offered me a chance to try out some of their roasting equipment for my holiday cooking, I jumped at the opportunity. This time of the year is when the cooking ramps up around here, and that is something coming from someone who seems to always be cooking, or baking.  December is usually the most hectic month as it includes, Christmas, Channuka, our wedding anniversary, my husbands birthday, and New Years Eve. We always have family and extra guests visiting this time of year, so by the time December is over, I'm usually ready to give the company feasting a rest til Valentines day.
   The good folks at OXO sent me a number of items to try, my task was to use them all to turn out something special. I received a Good Grips Flavor Injector for brines and marinades.

This is a nifty little tool, that comes with two injector heads, one for thinner brines and marinades and one for thicker marinades. Until I used this I never knew injecting marinades could be so easy. I have permanently said goodbye to soaking in brine, now it's all about the injector.

I also got a Non Stick Pro Half Sheet Jelly Roll Pan which is sturdy, scratch, stain, and abrasion resistant, with nicely rolled square edges and a micro-textured pattern.

This beauty is extremely easy to clean up (always a plus), and it's commercial grade! I really work my cooking materials hard and most of what I use is commercial grade, (especially since I've been menu consulting for CocoaPlanet) the tougher the better, and it's great to find a product for the home that measures up to what I'd find in a restaurant supply  store.

I also received a Chefs Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer. (see above) I already had bought one of these, but I had the old model, this new thermometer has a swivel head which does not involve one jamming their head in the oven like a fugitive from Hansel and Gretel to find out how ones meat is doing, Plus the case it comes in has the proper temps listed for whatever you might be cooking. Sweet.

The items on the left are Silicone Roasting Racks. (again, above) They elevate whatever happens to be cooking, allows the air to circulate around the food  as it cooks, and did I mention they are a breeze to clean up? Well they are! Dishwasher safe baby!
   So with all this great equipment what to cook? I decided to test drive my new pan with an old favorite that I hadn't bothered cooking for a zillion years. Game Hens. I always found them troublesome to cook properly but with all this great stuff, they were a breeze.

Pomegranate Marinated  Game Hens


Here's What You Need:  

2 Game Hens
3 Tbs pomegranate molasses
1 Tbs olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup of pomegranate arils

Here's What To Do:

Mix together the pomegranate molasses, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Draw the marinade into the flavor injector using the wider head.

Make sure the birds are thoroughly defrosted and dry. Place them in a Pyrex dish and inject them under the skin, into the meat at strategic points.

Cover the dish with foil and let the birds rest in the fridge overnight.
When ready to cook, mix another batch of the marinade and set it aside.
Take the birds out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the silicone roasting racks into the sheet pan.

Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the  hens, and add some pomegranate arils inside each cavity.

Place them on the silicone roasting racks and tie the tiny drumsticks together with butchers twine.

Place them into the middle of the oven and roast them at 375 for about 1 hour.

During the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, brush each game hen with the extra marinade you prepared.

Check the temp with the nifty digital thermometer.

I placed the birds on a bed of Basmati rice, cooked with cardamom, cloves, toasted cashews, and cinnamon.

I scattered pomegranate arils and torn mint leaves over the birds...

...and served them up.

They were flavorful thanks to the marinade injection, juicy and delicious!!!! This was the perfect meal for a busy weekday dinner even though it looks like something designed for company.

   I want to thank OXO for giving me the opportunity to use these great tools and show you what they can do. I'm now hooked on that injector and can't wait to see what it'll do to a brisket!  Coming up next, great holiday dishes, fancy or plain. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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